Joan Barreda's frustrated comeback: after a penalty he is two days and 10 minutes away from fighting for his first Dakar Rally

Last year the Dakar escaped Joan Barreda (Torreblanca, Castellón; 38 years old). When I had it within a stone’s throw. A fall (and its consequences) left him, again, out of the game. He runs on a motorcycle and counts five retirements in 12 editions. And no title. Despite being the third rider in history with the most stage victories, 29 after the two achieved in this edition, behind Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres, with 33 both. And since he made a navigation error in the first stage that forced him to run to the attack and come back (and come back), he has not thought about anything other than reaching the final podium in Jedda this Friday as the best classified possible. Despite the fact that last Thursday a fall caused a fracture in the clavicle, without displacement, which has caused severe pain in some stages. And that has forced him to compete with both his head and his throttle. Although the play in this last stage did not quite turn out well for him.

Barreda finished this Wednesday’s special fourth overall, although a subsequent four-minute penalty made him lose one position and left him fifth, more than 10 minutes away. With his comeback, he had managed to be a little higher every day and a little closer to the leader (at 10.47s), which, by the way, changes as the stages progress. Today, after the navigation error made by Matthias Walkner (KTM), the first of the general is the French Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha), fourth on Wednesday’s stage. And Barreda, although he finished 3m21s from the first, was harmed by that penalty for speeding on a section of the link. The special was won by a Toby Price (KTM) somewhat off the hook in the standings. Second was Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna), also without options.

In addition, the winner of the last edition, Kevin Benavides (Honda) was forced to leave after an engine failure. So the stage, 375 kilometers on the way to Bisha, very fast, one of the most, with many crossroads and tracks, which could have been a gift for Torreblanca, who would have taken a good leap in the general classification, saw how a miscalculation and speeding that he was probably aware of made things a bit more difficult for him in the final two stages.

“Today’s was a complicated stage, with some navigational difficulty that has forced us to go back a few kilometers,” explained Barreda, who wanted to play his cards so as not to start this Thursday in a too advanced position. It happened, however, that when committing this violation of the regulation in the link and not in the timed one, the sanction only affects the general. But not to the special or to the starting order of this Thursday. So although he thought he would start from ninth place, a good place to attack, he will, actually from third: “We have seen that today there was also a lot of strategy and we have penalized entering a radar. There I got a bit confused and I lost concentration because I didn’t know exactly how much the penalty was or how I had to play with the strategy ”. The penultimate stage, Barreda assumes, will not be easy, because there are many kilometers of sand and dunes and a lot of complicated navigation. “We will try to stay focused one more day and give it our all. You have to try to make that last effort ”.

The Honda rider does not recall having actually raced in full since before the 2018 Dakar. That year he did so with a wrist injury. And with many doubts. In fact, the doctors told him to forget to run that issue. “I had to operate four times! The wrist bones had exploded and it took a lot for them to regenerate and regain their normal form. But I kept running, infiltrated ”.

It was then that he learned to pilot with pain. Also when he realized that competing like this burned a lot. “You think: ‘to what extent do I need to suffer so much.” And so it was for more than two years.

For the 2020 edition, things did not improve. He broke two ribs eight days before the Dakar. “I wanted to die. That is how you start the competition and for the first few days you already know what is going to happen. And it’s rage. You go into a negative dynamic. And you don’t see the good things ”. A year later, in 2021, things looked different. He made it through the entire first week without incident. He was aiming to win his first Touareg. And he kept adding stage victories. Until a strong blow to the head once again sent all their hopes to the ruin.

Another injury has ended up marking Barreda’s path in this edition. But, curiously, it has been this second week, already with the clavicle in shreds, the best for the Spaniard, who has not stopped cutting minutes. The pity is that a badly devised play has delayed him four minutes in the general standings and, in addition, affected the starting order in a long and complex special, the penultimate, which is expected to be key for the definition of the final podium.

Barreda, despite all the difficulties, is now less than eleven minutes behind the leader. Ahead he has Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) at 4 minutes, Sam Sunderland (GasGas), at six, and Walkner, at eight. And there are only two days left.

Al-Attiyah, on for his first Dakar in Saudi Arabia

In cars, there is nothing to stand in the way of Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota), who defends the race lead with intelligence and few errors. The race was won by Stéphane Peterhansel, proving that the hybrid Audi that debuted this Dakar in Saudi Arabia has the ropes to continue fighting in future editions. In second place, just over two minutes later, his teammate Carlos Sainz finished. Sebastien Loeb (Prodrive) finished fifth, just over four minutes away and Nasser Al-Attiyah, the overall leader, was a minute slower. In this way, the Qatari keeps intact his chances of winning his fourth Dakar, which would be the first in Arab lands.

Dakar Rally Classification. Tenth stage

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